It’s Trump vs. the Deep State vs. the Rest of Us
It’s Trump vs. the Deep State vs. the Rest of Us by Ryan McMaken for Mises
One of the best side effects of the Trump presidency has been the hostility of the so-called “deep state” or “intelligence community” directed at the president.
This, in turn, has led many Americans to realize that America’s powerful, un-elected secret police agencies serve an agenda all their own, and that they choose sides in political controversies. Consequently, polls show one’s views of the CIA and the FBI depend largely on one’s ideological bent. Polls from Fox News and NBC news in recent years show that as various government bureaucracies have ratcheted up their hostility to Trump, more Democrats and Hillary Clinton voters have said they trust the CIA and the FBI.
Why the president and this deep state should be at odds has never been obvious to casual observers. Last month, however, in an article titled “Trump’s War on the ‘Deep State’ Turns Against Him,” the New York Timesat last explained that there is indeed very real enmity between Trump and agencies such as the CIA and the FBI. The Times contends that Trump “went to war with the professional staff” of the intelligence agencies and the State Department.
The Times notes Trump has condemned “deep state bureaucrats,” and claims Trump’s “hostility toward government was strong from the start. He blamed the leak of the so-called Steele dossier of unverified allegations against him on intelligence agencies and never trusted their conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 election on his behalf.”
Trump was right to be defensive, of course. But that controversy over Russia was never really about what the Russians were up to. The focus was always largely about how much Trump colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election.
Ultimately, the evidence was so non-existent, that after a nearly-three-year investigation, Robert Mueller was unable to establish evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians. As Glenn Greenwald has noted: “not a single American — whether with the Trump campaign or otherwise — was charged or indicted on the core question of whether there was any conspiracy or coordination with Russia over the election.”
But this lack of evidence did not stop John Brennan, for example, from claiming for months that he had special secret knowledge of the matter, and that Trump — or at least many around him — were going to be indicted for colluding with the Russians.
Although Brennan is a “former” CIA director, he nonetheless clearly remains well ensconced within the world of his fellow spooks. He is, as ABC News correspondent Terry Moran put it, “cloaked with CIA authority.” Brennan even insisted that he ought to retain his security clearance, presumably forever, even though he is accountable to no one. Such is the mindset of the deep state bureaucrat. They live in a world where they deserve special privileges just for being government employees.
Moreover, Brennan has been joined in his attacks on the president by other former high-ranking members of the deep state, including former FBI chief James Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Those currently employed by the deep state have joined the anti-Trump campaign as well. Much of the current campaign against Trump is likely being fed by by CIA agents, and according to Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday, CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella is supplying much of the prosecution’s information. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer and bureaucrat with the National Security Council, has testified to Congress in order to fuel impeachment efforts against the president as well.
Fêting Deep-State Bureaucrats as Heroes
None of this is to say the Trump administration lacks any taint of corruption. Like all presidents, it is likely the Trump administration expects favors for favors. The only thing different about Trump is he is not skilled at keeping the everyday corruption of the White House a secret.
But what is especially problematic for him is the fact that so many of his critics coming out of the bureaucratic woodwork are from intelligence agencies and from the military.
Unfortunately, in the United States there is a well-established bias in favor of employees from national security agencies. Even the very language used by the media speaks to this favoritism. In the Times piece, for example, the authors speak of one of Trump’s critics, one “William B. Taylor Jr., a military officer and diplomat who has served his country for 50 years.” Note the implied selflessness of Taylor’s work. An equally accurate description of Taylor would be “he was employed by government agencies for fifty years” or “the taxpayers paid his bills for fifty years.” Instead, we’re told he “served his country.” The propaganda value of the media’s pro-military bias is not lost on the officers themselves, and it’s no surprise Vindman, a Lt. Colonel, testified to Congress in his military uniform.
Other examples can be found every time Trump fires a lifelong bureaucrat from the upper echelons of the various “national security” agencies. For example, last summer, when Trump fired director of national intelligence Dan Coats, the Atlantic portrayed Coats as a principled idealist who “spoke truth to power.” Coats was fired, the author tells us, because of his devotion to the truth, even if it undermined Trump’s agenda. The best proof of Coats’s honest determination, we’re told, was the fact he “won praise from former intelligence officials.”
[RELATED: “19th-Century Americans Didn’t ‘Support the Troops‘” by Ryan McMaken]
In real life, of course, Coats is a lifelong politician and bureaucrat who prior to his dismissal had collected a government paycheck for four decades. As a politician he lobbied for gun control and supported the disastrous 2003 Iraq War. He trashed the constitutional right of habeas corpus. Like James Comey, Coats defended and sought to hide the government’s use of torture. The idea that his post-Congressional career was marked by dogged devotion to the truth ought to strike one as rather fanciful.